With a 400% increase in requests for an ADHD diagnosis since 2020 – the business world is rapidly waking up to the idea that harnessing the abilities of neurodiverse people in the workplace can make a real difference to the bottom line.
Assistive technology, training and coaching provider Thriiver are gold sponsors of the DE&I Symposium, which is taking place within the MAD World Summit on 12th October. In this article they give a sneak peek of some of the ideas they’ll be sharing as part of the panel session: “Benefits of having neurodiverse employees in the workplace”.
You can find out more about the fantastic speaker lineup and reserve your place at the DE&I Symposium here.
Tangible business benefits with a neurodiverse team
Hewlett Packard has reported neurodiverse teams are 30% more productive and the Harvard Business Review states that organisations that actively promote inclusivity generate 19% more revenue. With these compelling statistics, it is no wonder that organisations are now actively looking to recruit – and retain – their neurodiverse employees.
The reason for this is that neurodiverse people are usually exceptionally good at the skills that are becoming increasingly important in modern business. Creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and looking at the big picture are all things that excel at and where technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) often fail.
At the same time, potential employees are ranking companies that they want to work for on a company’s culture and inclusive approach. An effective PR campaign around inclusivity not only helps you attract potential talent, but also creates loyalty to your brand and better sales.
Since 1997, we at www.thriiver.co.uk have supported individuals with physical disabilities and neurodiversity in the workplace. The 400% increase in requests for an ADHD diagnosis aligns with an increase in demand for our services as organisations become aware of the business benefits of a neuro-inclusive culture to help them achieve their goals.
It starts with raising awareness…
It is estimated that 15 –20% of the population are neurodivergent, having one or more of the above conditions, where cognitive functioning and thinking patterns deviate from the perceived “typical” or neurotypical norm.
With the percentages being so high, it is highly likely that within your workplace there are neurodivergent employees. However, the stigmas have been such that research shows employees can take on average 3 years to disclose a neurodivergent condition for fear of a negative impact on themselves in the workplace. Another factor to consider is that there will be many neurodivergent employees who are oblivious to their neurodiversity – but they will still benefit from the same help and support.
The first step in the journey is to raise awareness of neurodiversity within your organisation.
Neurodiversity as a concept simply recognises that we all have diverse ways of thinking, learning, and processing information and the term is often used to describe conditions such as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (DCD), Dyscalculia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
Changing the narrative
The good news is that times are changing – rapidly. With large organisations such as Dell, Microsoft, Google, and EY etc. actively recruiting neurodiverse employees and sharing the business benefits of neurodiverse teams, the narrative is finally shifting.
Everyone is an individual, and no two people with autism for example are the same, but there are some frequent traits that accompany various neurodivergent conditions. For example, a person with dyslexia might not be the best person to take notes in a meeting, but they can be great at solving problems, thinking outside of the box, and leading the meeting. A person with ADHD might find planning and prioritising challenging but can be extremely focused when given a clear task.
We have found that the key is to raise awareness of what being neurodivergent means. And then, as with any employee, focus on their strengths rather than weaknesses. With this approach everyone can reach their true potential and employees can thrive rather than survive.
There is a reason that football teams are not made up solely of strikers or goalkeepers – different skills are needed to succeed and the same applies in the working world. You are more likely to win a match if your goalies stay in goal rather than trying to make them run up field and score a goal.
The big organisations who are building neuro-inclusive workplaces are harnessing the power of difference and are reaping the benefits from initial recruitment through the retention of existing staff.
Currently, many companies are struggling to recruit yet among the incredibly talented neurodivergent community, unemployment is between 30 – 40%. If your HR managers and your senior teams are aware of the business benefits of neurodiverse teams, then they can take advantage of this rich talent pool that your competitors might be missing.
Post-pandemic, it has become harder to retain employees. Working patterns have shifted, employees have adapted to new ways of working and for some, a return to post-pandemic ways is a challenge. In many cases, people have become more aware of what works and what does not work for them, and it has left business leaders with a new set of challenges.
Without awareness and understanding, small issues can escalate and can lead to an employee leaving the business. This is not only costly for the employer, but upsetting for the individual, and can negatively affect the culture of the organisation. In many cases, fast, cost-effective, and easy reasonable adjustments can be made to ensure the employees stay in the business and are happy in their roles.
Reasonable adjustments can be simple tweaks
With the general lack of understanding that still exists around neurodivergent conditions it is not surprising that creating a neurodiverse workplace can feel daunting. But this does not need to be the case – you can start small and make a vast impact. With HR and senior teams briefed on the understanding and benefits of neurodiverse teams, this knowledge can cascade down throughout the business.
When existing employees feel there is a culture of inclusivity, they are more likely to disclose and communicate their challenges and this is a key step into providing reasonable adjustments, which in turn help everyone. It might be as simple as purchasing some dictation software to help an employee with dyslexia with writing emails, or a piece of mind mapping software to help an employee with ADHD organise their thoughts.
Or it could be that if working hours could be slightly adjusted, a person with autism could avoid rush hour and be more settled and productive as soon as they arrive at work.
Inclusion benefits all
There are so many Assistive Technologies available to help neurodivergent employees – and many help all employees. For example, everyone can benefit from spelling and grammar checkers, especially those who might not be working in their native language. And tools to help organise and prioritise tasks can help neurotypical and neurodivergent employees alike.
For areas where technology cannot help, coaching often can. Coaching for individuals helps employees to develop strategies for the workplace. Co-coaching on the other hand is for multiple people – often an employee and their manager. In this situation both parties learn how to work and develop strategies together and as part of a wider team. This approach benefits everyone within the team or department, improving efficiency, engagement, and increased innovation.
Celebrate difference and recognise everyone
Within the realm of diversity and inclusion, the consideration of neurodiverse teams, or neuroinclusive cultures remains to be relatively new. But on so many levels it is right thing to do – for access to a wider talent pool, an increase in retention rates, increased efficiency, productivity, and innovation… the list goes on and it is hard to find an argument as to why you would not want to actively promote a neuroinclusive culture.
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